Lionel Messi took another step toward what would be a crowning achievement as Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-3 in a penalty shootout Friday in the quarterfinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Argentina appeared to be home clear in the final stages of the match, and Wout Weghorst's opener in the 83rd was little more than a consolation at first. But the Dutch kept pushing forward and found the equalizer through a brilliant set piece finished off by Weghorst in stoppage time.
The match went to a penalty shootout after neither country could break the deadlock in extra time. The Netherlands' first two penalty takers, Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis, saw their attempts saved by Argentina keeper Emi Martínez, which put the South Americans firmly in control. Lautaro Martínez converted the winner to send the Argentines through.
It was a suitably dramatic conclusion to an instant classic.
Lionel Messi delivered a standout performance that was overshadowed by the Dutch comeback.
The Paris Saint-Germain star has been an integral member of the national team, totaling three goals and one assist entering Friday. He added a second assist when he found Nahuel Molina for Argentina's opener in the 35th minute.
Social media was in unison in expressing awe at Messi's pass.
After Denzel Dumfries fouled Marcos Acuña in the 18-yard box, Messi doubled Argentina's lead from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute.
The goal symbolized the sense of inevitability surrounding the 35-year-old.
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<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ARG?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ARG</a> Lionel Messi tied Gabriel Batistuta for most <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FIFAWorldCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FIFAWorldCup</a> goals for Argentina (10).<br><br>Messi is the 14th man to score 10+ FIFA WC goals. <a href="https://t.co/vyBRyilCeD">pic.twitter.com/vyBRyilCeD</a>
Argentina will meet Croatia in the semifinals on Dec. 13 after the Croatians knocked out Brazil in a penalty shootout earlier on Friday.
On paper, that's the easier of the two opponents, but Croatia's defensive strength can't be overlooked. Zlatko Dalić's squad gave up one goal in the group stage and held Japan and Brazil to one goal apiece in the knockout stages.
Messi's brilliance could be required once again to seal Argentina's passage to the World Cup final for the second time in the last three tournaments.